Hammer toe is a condition that is unfamiliar to many people. Typically, your toe is meant to point forward, but with a hammer toe, it becomes fixed in a bent or curved position. There are two joints in the toe and hammer toe affects the one furthest from the toenail. This deformity can technically happen to any of your toes, but it is most common in the second or third toe. Multiple factors can contribute to the development of a hammer toe, but it is treatable in most cases.
In many cases, hammer toe is caused or contributed to by the individual. The most common cause of this condition is wearing shoes that are too tight or heels with a pointed toe, which causes the toes to force together. These types of shoes continuously force the toes into a position where the muscles cannot stretch out the way that they are supposed to. Over time, the toes may become unable to stretch out on their own anymore. Other factors that can contribute to the development of a hammer toe include a high foot arch, bunion pressure, and traumatic toe injuries. In all cases of hammertoe, the balance between the tendon on the top and tendon on the bottom that maintain straight alignment of the toe is altered mechanically, resulting in flexion of the toe.
Certain risk factors can make an individual predisposed to hammer toe. These include:
Typically, you will notice the signs or symptoms of hammer toe as they show up. The toe will begin to develop an abnormal bend and it may be difficult or painful to move it. In addition, you could begin to get corns or bunions as a result of the deformed toe rubbing in your shoe.
As mentioned above, most cases of hammer toe are easily treatable. It typically involves correcting whatever contributed to the condition in the first place, such as switching to better-fitting shoes, treatment of bunions, or wearing orthotics to treat a high arch. As these conditions are corrected and your toe can properly stretch out, it may begin to resolve. You can also aid your recovery by stretching and flexing your toes, and wearing certain splints to help control the flexion of the toe.
In more severe cases, where the toe is completely unable to flex, surgery may be the only option. The surgery could involve removing damaged or deformed bone, repositioning the toe, and realigning joints or tendons.
So, the next time you are looking at a pair of heels or considering settling for a smaller shoe when they don’t have your size, think of your toes. Looking good is important to all of us, but it is not worth injuring yourself. The price of fashion should never outweigh proper comfort and health. Find shoes that fit properly and allow your toes to straighten out, and consider getting orthotics if your high arch gives you trouble. The more you do to take care of your feet, the better they will perform for you.
If you are having trouble with a hammer toe or would like to get a consultation about your condition, contact Diablo Foot and Ankle. We are experienced with a wide range of foot and ankle issues and are here to help. Don’t put off taking care of your feet, give us a call today.